‘Oh, God! How will she go back to India? She doesn’t have a passport!’
Anshuman buried his face in his hands and heaved a deep sigh. He now knew what had been so troublesome for so long and had made him restless.
The rest of the journey passed counting minutes until they landed at Abu Dhabi airport. Anshuman informed his teammates and headquarters that he had forgotten some important documents at Kabul and he had to go back. It wasn’t like he wanted to go and anyone on the earth could stop him. So they simply nodded in affirmation. Everyone knew that if they tried to stop Anshuman or reason with him, he would opt to leave the job. He was that stubborn.
They proceeded for their next posting while Anshuman rushed back to the office of the airlines to get the ticket to Kabul.
Krish was excited when he could finally manage to get Mr. Mehta to talk to the Embassy of Afghanistan in India and they could co-ordinate with their colleagues in Afghanistan. A hard work of hours was paid in a positive response and he couldn’t stop grinning.
“What happened? Why are you so happy?” Manasvi asked.
“I’ve talked to everyone… long story, cut short… the authorities have agreed to let you travel on your old torn passport that you will get back from the MEA office. You can take your Tazkira, other documents, and the old passport and travel back to India. Everything is sorted.” Krish informed her with a sigh of relief on his lips. His eyes shone when he shared the news.
Manasvi kept looking at his face for some time as if thinking deeply. She bit her lower lip and narrowed her eyes as transverse slits, trying to focus on the information and the implications of the same. Her mind appeared to be in a battle with itself.
“What are you thinking? What is there to think so much?” Krish asked.
Manasvi cleared her throat and replied, “Krish, I don’t know how to thank you for taking so many efforts for me…but…”
“I can’t come with you!” She replied in one go. With her face straight and voice as clear as she could manage.
“Whattt?? But why?”
She thought for a small moment, not sure whether she could share it with him. Krish had been an amazing friend but she didn’t know if he would understand and support her journey ahead that she had been contemplating. She hesitated and replied, “Actually… I have some work here.”
“Work? What kind of work?” Krish was clueless and confused. He had no idea why would Manasvi want to stay back when she could easily travel to India with him.
“I’ll tell you soon. Right now, a lot of things are going in my mind.”
“Manasvi…” Krish was getting upset now. The more he got worried for her, the more upset he became.
She interrupted him from speaking more, touched his arm, and urged him to go, “Krish please…please!! Let me do this. For the first time, I feel that my degree and experience in Journalism were for a reason. I want to find something.”
“What?” He shrugged.
“Give me some time… if I fail in my pursuit, I will come… now that you have ensured that I can travel. In the meantime, my school will respond too… please…” Even she didn’t know what she spoke in broken sentences to convince Krish. He was angry and upset but knew that Manasvi was stubborn.
He picked up his handbag and briefly gave her a side hug and said, “Take care. Call me whenever you are in trouble.”
“I will!” Manasvi smiled, trying to assure him that she was fine and had taken this decision after careful thought.
“Sir, we don’t have any flight to Kabul.” The guy at the airline’s office informed Anshuman.
Anshuman was rapidly typing the details in his phone app responsible for flight bookings, to see if there were any other airlines that had a flight to Kabul. He frowned when the officer and the app, both failed to get him a ticket to Kabul.
“Listen, it’s really urgent.” Anshuman tapped on the desk before him, hoping for a positive response from the officer. But no such luck. The man simply nodded to refuse.
There was no flight leaving for Kabul from Abu Dhabi, until the next day. Anshuman quickly signed on the website of PBB and searched for the list of countries that allowed him to travel without restrictions. Pakistan was listed under that section but they allowed travel to other PBB employees. Not him. He had an Indian passport. He was supposed to go through a thorough check before a given visa even for a short trip.
Anshuman frowned and squeezed his eyes, placing his fingers between the folded creases of his skin in the center of his forehead between his brows. He thought hard and then he asked the guy on the other side of the desk.
“What about Karachi?”
“Sir, we have a flight for Karachi, late at night. At about 3 am in the night. You will reach Karachi early morning by 5:30 am. We can book you on that!” The man looked relieved and he smiled. Anshuman’s anxiousness had made him feel bad for him.
Anshuman nodded and said, “Ok! Great! Please book me a ticket for Karachi.”
“Yes, sir!” The man started typing the ticket after collecting Anshuman’s credit card.
Anshuman stood up from his chair and moved around to make a call to his Chief. Thankfully, the man was available.
“What happened, Anshuman? Have you managed to get a ticket back to Kabul?” He asked.
“Sir, I need a visa to travel to Pakistan. My flight is at 3 am.” Anshuman spoke firmly.
The Chief took a minute to process it. “Pakistan? Why?”
“It’s very important to me.”
“Listen, Anshuman, you know that it doesn’t happen like that. We have to follow a proper procedure. Every country has its own rules and protocol.”
“But, it IS possible for you!” Anshuman interrupted him in a firmer and almost desperate voice, “Both of us know that you can do it. They allow all PBB employees. Only a few people are asked to verify credentials. And I am not asking for an exemption there. But I can do it all after reaching Karachi. I will go through all checks and all verifications but please get me a visa on an urgent basis. Only if you put in a word for me…”
“Anshuman… why are you always so secretive? And always in a rush?”
“Because time is running short and we are always late.”
“You know that I like you so much… and so you get away with all this nonsense…”
Anshuman smiled, “Thank you, sir! Please do it for me. We have almost 12 hours to go…”
The Chief nodded, “Alright! Give me some time. Let me ring up some contacts there.”
“Thanks!” Anshuman smiled and leaned his back at the sidewall of the airlines’ office, staring at the long runaway and planes taking off at regular intervals. This was what looked sensible right now. Instead of waiting for an entire day at Abu Dhabi to go to Kabul, he could go to Karachi for Manasvi’s conduct certificate from her school. At least a major work would be finished by the time, he reached Kabul, and then he could ensure that her passport was re-issued.
In the meantime, he wanted her to be safe and secured. Until now, he had been under the impression that she was going to India. Now that he had realized that she couldn’t go back, he wanted Krish to be by her side until he reached there.
Anshuman immediately called Krish. But he couldn’t reach him as his phone was switched off. So was Manasvi’s number as her phone was discharged. Anshuman tried not to allow his anxiety to get over his stable state of mind.
He collected his ticket, thanked the official, and walked out to look for the airport restaurant to grab a bite till his paperwork for travel was completed.
Manasvi checked in The Metropolitan Hotel at Kabul, doing everything in her might to not look like a damsel in distress, unknowingly giving ideas to random men.
“Actually, my husband works for PBB.” She slowly told them, using Anshuman’s name once again to get through the difficult situation.
PBB was all over the news channels and newspapers for the past 2 days due to the attack on the camp and otherwise too, they knew PBB. One of the receptionists was very sympathetic towards her when he heard that. They helped her checked in a comfortable room, as she told them that her husband was out on duty, taking care of patients, while she wanted to do some important work at MEA.
They gave her a room key and she checked-in without any problem. In fact, she was assured of a comfortable stay and immediate assistance, should she need anything.
Manasvi thanked them profusely and locked the door of the room from inside, to take a quick bath and get ready. It was already 3 pm and she didn’t want to lose time.
She had important work to do.
The Chief did all that he could do to move his contacts and ensure that like other PBB officials, even Anshuman was allowed entry in Pakistan citing urgent reasons. His visa and verification would happen at the immigration office at Karachi.
Late at night, he informed Anshuman about that. Anshuman was relieved to know that things were going to get smooth from now.
Since both Krish and Manasvi were unreachable on their phones, he desperately hoped that they were together. He picked up his bag and moved towards the security check-in before boarding the plane. Once again, he called Krish. This time, he answered.
“Hello Krish… this is Anshuman.”
“Hello, doctor!” Even Krish was surprised when he received Anshuman’s call. It was unusual and weird. They hadn’t talked that much that they would cordially call each other. Krish didn’t believe in small talk either. He knew that Anshuman had called for some serious purpose. He asked directly, “What happened? Why did you call me?”
“Krish, where are you? Manasvi is with you, right?” Anshuman tried to stay hopeful and positive about the entire episode.
But his hopes were trashed when Krish refused. “No, I am in Delhi. I came by afternoon flight. Manasvi didn’t come with me.”
“Didn’t come? Because she couldn’t come…She doesn’t have a passport.” Anshuman was very nervous to think that Manasvi was alone in Kabul. He almost yelled at Krish, “How could you leave her alone, there?”
Krish was very worried too. Angry as well. He replied back, “Doctor… let me make this very clear. I ensured that she could travel even with the old passport and get a new one made here. I moved many, many contacts in both the Embassies… but she refused… simply didn’t want to come…”
“Why?” Anshuman was at a loss of words. Feeling apprehensive and angry by now.
“God knows! She said she had some work there. She didn’t tell me which work. Why don’t you ask her.”
“I will!” Angry, Anshuman disconnected.
He called Manasvi. This time, she answered too. It was very late at night. Around 1 am. She was tucked in bed, looking out of the window of the hotel, at the dark sky outside, and the reflection of the full moon on the glass of the window. When the phone rang, she answered it.
Anshuman didn’t greet her with the usual salutations used when talking on the phone. He was too upset, too annoyed, too angry for that. He almost barked on the phone.
“Why are you still in Kabul when you could have gone back with Krish? Why didn’t you go? Which important work needs your attention there? Are you crazy? Do you have any sense left or you have decided that you will purposefully trouble me until I lose all of my sanity?”
Manasvi was surprised at the way he was scolding her. She was never reprimanded in such a caring, loving, wholesome manner. In fact, she was never scolded at all. Ever. She had maintained an aura that people around her respected her and no one had the audacity to say anything rash to her. And this was not even rash. It spoke of how he was worried about her. Every word reflected how deeply he cared for her.
Softly, she replied.
“No one has ever scolded me so lovingly. Please don’t make me feel new emotions. I’m already struggling with old ones.”